Global season 'step closer'

2013-09-23 13:04
Jurie Roux (Gallo)
Cape Town – A willingness in both the southern and northern hemispheres to “make sacrifices” means a global season for rugby is inching closer to fruition, says SARU CEO Jurie Roux.

Speaking during a wide-ranging interview with Sport24 a few days ago, Roux said a wholly compatible world season would not simply take shape immediately – it would begin with small but important shifts in itineraries.

His views come at a time when South African rugby is potentially teetering over renewed commitment to SANZAR at franchise level (Super Rugby) from 2016, when a fresh model takes shape, or throwing in their lot with currently disenchanted, powerful English and French clubs who want a bigger stake-holding in the northern equivalent Heineken Cup.

It is known that contact has been made between SARU bosses and representatives of some of those clubs, although the structure of any breakaway competition along such lines would be problematic given rival seasonal rosters.

Rebellious moves may only become more tempting after weekend suggestions in Rapport newspaper that a sixth South African team in Super Rugby – initially thought to have been green-lighted by the various SANZAR partners – is no longer a cut and dried affair because of the huge structural snags it creates in unbalancing the conferences.

South Africa insists a sixth franchise – thus allowing both the Lions and Kings to be safely accommodated – is a non-negotiable aspect of a future Super Rugby deal.

Amidst such turbulence, Roux says that a global season – which would probably created a more settled environment universally at all levels of competition – is considered a “paramount issue” at International Rugby Board level at present.

“It’s on the agenda for the next executive council meeting -- and has been on the agenda for a long time.

“Now they’ve actually got schedules for the first time, they’re talking about it, there’s a willingness from both parties (hemispheres) to make sacrifices because that’s the real thing: somebody’s got to make a paradigm shift.

“We don’t play rugby in December here; we’re all off to the beach or on farms or somewhere other than a rugby field. And even if you do organise games at that time of the year in Durban, Cape Town or Port Elizabeth, people aren’t going to them because they’ve sacrificed the whole year for that specific family holiday time and they’ll just have too much trouble (going to rugby).

“But there’s a willingness to at least have that first shift, possibly moving the (mid-year Test window), so I think it’s a lot closer than people think it is. You won’t see a complete global season immediately where we all play at exactly the same time, but it will be a step closer.

“We would play a July window (instead of from early June), and then go straight into Rugby Championship. It would also leave us time to finish off Super Rugby, so you don’t have the break in that competition.

“You have to sell Super Rugby, and from a commercial and marketing point of view (the interruption) is a bit of a nightmare.

“And if we can successfully negotiate that first step, because people are fearful of change, then they’ll realise the (benefits of deepening the process).”

Roux said he believed the particularly harsh winters experienced in Europe recently were making people in the northern hemisphere think more positively about possible alterations to the roster there.

“I remember former Lions captain Paul O’Connell telling me once ‘never mind the currency or anything else, why would anybody want to come and play in the middle of the Irish winter when they can play more in South African sunshine?’”.

Given the delicacy and fluidity of the matter at present, Roux was understandably cagey over the possibility of South Africa going into franchise partnership with European outfits.

“The season is always going to be an issue; getting the season structured. It seems from the public there’s kind of an appetite (for a wholesale shift of allegiance) ... but at the moment we are dealing with SANZAR in good faith.”

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    saru  |  jurie roux  |  rugby

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